Let It Burn

If you ever lifted weights to gain muscle mass, you know that you need to fight past the burn. When your muscles begin to burn that is an indicator that you are pushing through your threshold where growth can take root. In contrast, if we stop lifting the weight when we feel the burn, in all actuality, we are hindering the growth process that could potentially be taking place within us. The same goes with our spiritual life. Often, God puts us in a situation where our flesh has to burn, but if we act out or become defensive we will never reach the full potential that God has in store for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Needless to say, I have learned this lesson the hard way. My wife, who is also my best friend, will often “politely” bring to my attention an area that is hindering my growth. But because of my past conditionings, I would often get so defensive and lash out at her, leaving her bewildered. But thank God for the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truths (John 16:13). Not only does He reveal to us our shortcomings, He also convicts us in order to get our attention.

images.jpeg

When we feel that uneasiness brewing inside us, we can do one of two things. We can ignore it and miss out on potential growth. Or we can surrender in complete obedience to His wisdom (Matt. 16:24-25). Life is about growth and everyday we wake up we should be excited to hit our “Spiritual Gym” for the more we work on our inner man the stronger our inner man becomes (Jude 20). Stop letting pride and past failures and past circumstances rob you of your blessings like I have let it rob me in the past. Surrender to Gods chastening because he resist the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). So the next time a co-worker gets on your last nerve, or your children or spouse test your patience, just remember that when you feel that urge to retaliate, the best thing to do is to let it burn. God will honor your faithfulness but first we must honor Him (1 Samuel 2:30).

“Stay Hungry My Friends!”

Ask any coach and they will tell you that the athletes that they are attracted to are the ones who are hungry.  These are the gym rats.  They are the first in the gym and the last to leave.  Coaches find pleasure in working with these players because they are coachable and excited about learning and growing as an athlete.  Conversely, the athletes that coaches most despise are the athletes who possess more talent but because they lack the desire and motivation to get better they never reach their full potential.  What separates the two athletes is that one is hungry and the other is not.

images-5.jpeg

Likewise, God is attracted to a people who are hungry after him.  Nothing gets him more fired up than someone who has a heart after God.  In the King James version of the bible Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  Doesn’t that sound like Jesus is telling us to be hungry after the Lord?  It does to me!  When a player “asks” me to meet him at 8:30 am before practice to get up extra shots, I know he’s hungry.  When he “seeks” ways to get better by watching hours and hours of film of previous games and practices, I know he’s hungry.  When he “knocks” on my office door and ask to get extra shots after practice when all his teammates have gone and left for home, I know he’s hungry.  It’s no surprise that such players go on to experience great success on and off the court.

5386631-ask-seek-knock-matthew-7-bible.jpg

If you want to experience God in a deeper way you have to knock on heaven’s doors.  You see, the word knock is a verb.  A verb is an action (learned that in the 6th grade, thanks Mr. Smith).  Therefore, to knock is to act.  That means you must get out of that bed! That means you must get up from that chair!   You must be hungry. Many of us are waiting on God but God is waiting on you!  In 2 Corinthians 6:2, it says, NOW is the day of salvation.  If you are struggling with your walk or maybe you are desiring to go to the next level with God, remember, keep asking, seeking, knocking and the door will surely be opened to you!  “Stay hungry, my friends!..(after the Lord, that is!).

images-2.jpeg

John 7:37 “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (NIV Bible)

Prayer:  Lord, thank you that you have given me a heart after you and a desire to continually seek your face and that you are a rewarder of those who diligently do so (Hebrews 11:6).  In your son’s name, I pray, Amen

 

Yes You Can

 

As a young kid, ask anyone who knew me it was evident that I wanted to “Be Like Mike”. I would daydream all day of me playing in the National Basketball Association. Never in a million years would I have thought I would actually be playing against my childhood idol, Michael Jordan! In fact, take away MJ’s six NBA championships and Final’s MVP’s, 14 All-Star Appearances, and 10 scoring titles we are basically on the same level (hey this is my story and I’ll tell it the way I want). Nonetheless, in being affiliated with the NBA for almost two decades, I‘m often asked to give advice to the next generation on how they too can accomplish such a feat. Even though the typical answers of hard work and dedication would be sufficient enough in achieving such a milestone, I feel compelled to share three things that you must do in order to reach your potential.

Unknown.jpeg

1.) You Must Go Into The DEEP

One of the hindrances that prevent people from achieving greatness is that they set too small of a goal. In order to achieve something great you must first enlarge your vision. What this requires of you is stepping out of your comfort zone. Take into account the instructions in Luke 5:4 that Jesus gives the fishermen who had failed to make a single catch all day, “Put into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Notice that he didn’t say stay in the shallow water where it’s nice and comfortable but rather he said cast into the deep water where there is much turbulence and uncertainty. Even though it went against all logic and reason, the fishermen obeyed Jesus’ command and in return reaped a great reward (Luke 5: 5-7). At the age of 18, I too ventured out into the deep and decided to follow my own dream of playing major D-I college basketball by attending Seton Hall University, located in South Orange, New Jersey. I can’t begin to describe to you the difficulty I experienced in transitioning from the prairie planes of Kansas to the metropolitan life of the east coast. Even though I was young and naïve, I am so glad I took that leap of faith. Today, God may be telling you to take a leap of faith even though it may go against all logic and reason. When you are out in the deep and all you see is water it’s tempting to start questioning whether you made the right decision or not. I can’t begin to tell you how many times we talk ourselves out of God’s best for us because we can’t see the shore. Instead of paddling back to the safety of the shore this is the time when we must build ourselves up in the Lord (Jude 1:20). It’s ironic that we can be so quick to speak encouraging words to others and at the same time be our own worse critics. Words are powerful. You can speak life into your situation or speak death (Proverbs 18:21). Choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) and be reassured that God did not give you a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1-7). Take control of your thoughts and stop letting fear keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you. So the next time that the waves start to rise just know that you are in a good place because that is where you find the big fish!

images-1.jpeg

2.) You Must Shake Off The Haters

How do you know when you have ventured far enough into the deep? That’s simple; people will try and talk you out of it. The bible says King David’s own brother burned with anger and chastised him for having the audacity to think he could defeat a mighty warrior such as Goliath (1 Samuel 17: 28). Whenever you set out to achieve something great you can best believe you will be met with resistance. Quite frankly, when I signed with Seton Hall, many people thought I was nuts! I can still hear the critics now, “No way can this little country boy ever make it in the big city!” In fact, according to one renowned NBA and college scout, I would sit the bench at Seton Hall for four years and then afterwards return to Wichita to pump gas at a local gas station! Fortunately for us, just like with King David, God doesn’t look at our outer appearances. He doesn’t care if we are old or young, large or small, from the city or the suburbs. The only thing he requires of us is just to have faith, even if it is the size of a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). So the next time you are met with resistance do as King David did and simply turn away    (1 Samuel 17:30). Don’t waist your time and energy trying to convert people who have a shallow water mindset (Matthew 7:6). Venture into the deep where the big fish are waiting for you!.

Unknown copy.png

3.) You Must Understand That Failure Is Not fatal.

Going undrafted in 1996 was one of the lowest points of my life.    A lot of times when you are pursuing your goal you can do everything right and still fail. Just remember that failure is not fatal. It is only a stepping-stone to propel you forward closer to your destiny. What we think is meant for harm is actually meant for our good (Genesis 50:20). When I failed to get drafted into the NBA I thought God had forsaken me.  But it is in the wilderness where God begins to transform and equip us to take over the promise land (Deuteronomy 31). For three years in the minor leagues the head coach worked with me for an hour before practice and an hour after practice. It was during this time I became physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger. If I would have gotten drafted immediately following college I would not have developed the necessary skills that would go on to sustain me throughout a nine-year playing career in the NBA.  Thank God his ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). In light of this, you yourself may be lost in the wilderness without a compass to guide you. When we enter these times of uncertainty the Bible tells us that if any man lacks wisdom we should simply ask God, who gives it to us freely (James 1:5). Asking for help takes a certain level of humility. Just remember that God resist the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The point that I’m making is that no one gets to where they are without the assistance of others.  Even Jesus himself had help in carrying his cross to Calvary (Matthew 27:32).  When I think of the many others who have helped carry my cross I get overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Be it former coaches, former teaches, family members and friends, they have all contributed greatly to my success.   No discipline seems pleasant at the time (Matthew 12:11) but blessed is the man that endures to the end (James 1:12).

r960-dab3f5b9628b3dc053c65077b2ef5558.jpg

Lastly, when it comes to reaching your goals, let me end with this bit of advice.  The race is not given to the swift nor the strong but he who endures until the end (Ecclesiastes 9:11). In other words, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. So whenever you begin to question if you can achieve the impossible let me be the first to tell you,  YES YOU CAN!

images.jpeg

P.S. I’m dedicating this blog to my niece.  Uncle A love’s you.  You have greatness inside you. Do as David did and shake them haters off and keep moving forward. God has something uniquely and undeniably great in store for you!

 

 

 

 

 

3o Seconds

In my nine years as a journeyman in the NBA, very seldom did I enter the season penciled in as a starter. More often than not, when the regular season got under way I was buried on the bench right next to the Gatorade.  Yet, it never ceased to amaze me that during some juncture of the season I had somehow worked myself into the rotation either as a starter or key substitute off the bench.   For a player who lacked sufficient foot speed and leaping ability, how was that possible?  It was possible because I always worked with the end in mind.  I understood that within a 82 game season, plagued with injuries and poor performers, an opportunity would present itself to showcase my abilities if I just stayed ready.  images.png

Sitting on the bench game after game is not easy to do. It tests you in every way; physically, mentally, as well as emotionally. And despite what naysayers may think, most athletes don’t enjoy sitting on the bench just to collect a check.  The ones with pride want to be on the floor contributing to the team’s success.  They want to play the game they love and when playing time is nonexistent that love turns cold and tempers turn hot. Regardless if it deems fair or not, the fact remains that players cannot control playing time.  However, the one thing they can control is their attitude. While I witnessed some of my teammates succumb to frustration and stopped working hard all together, I on the other hand, continued to put in the hard work just in case the coach called my number even if it was for, you guessed it.… 30 seconds.  Some players scoff at 30 seconds considering it an insult.  For me, I saw it as an opportunity.  An opportunity to show the coach I was hungry, that I wanted “it” and wanted “it” badly!

images-4.jpeg

Instead of catching an attitude because the coach was putting me in with just 30 seconds left in a blowout game, I ripped off my sweats and sprinted to the table to check in.  You see, it’s easy to do the right thing when things are going your way, but it takes something special to do the right thing when your back is against the wall.  I suppose that “special thing” is called character more than anything else.  Understand that coaches and bosses see everything.  They see who has character and who does not.  They know who wants “it” and who is willing to pay the price to obtain “it”.  Those are the kind of players and employees you want on your team, the kind that are willing to do the right thing when no one else is watching (or think no one else is watching). So regardless if it is 3o seconds of playing time or 3o seconds of a presentation, sprint to the podium, give it all you’ve got!  After all, you never know who is watching (hey, it worked for me:).

images-3.jpeg

The “L” In Leadership Stands for Listen

In todays society, a leader needs a multitude of skills in order to be successful.   These skills consist of being able to plan strategically, motivate subordinates, and create an impactful vision.  However, the most effective skill a leader must develop is the ability to actively listen.  With 17 years of experience in the National Basketball Association (NBA), it is tempting for me to project my own thoughts and suggestions onto players without hearing them out first.  After all, I do know more than they do, right?  Wrong.

Adopting this type of approach in building relationships only leaves players frustrated and fails to bridge the gap that’s needed to build a healthy culture.  When you give your people the respect of being heard, they feel valued.  When people feel valued and respected they are more engaged.  When we are quick to correct and give advice without allowing employees to voice their concerns, they feel neglected. When they feel neglected they become less motivated.  Player contracts in the NBA have reached astronomical levels where players are slated to make millions of dollars more than ever before.  What makes a player want to sacrifice his individual goals for the team goals when millions of dollars are at stake?  The only way he would be willing to do so is when he feels he is part of something greater than himself.  As a leader it is YOUR job to get your people to “buy-in”, in which that is the ultimate challenge.

So how do you get players/employees to buy-in?  You accomplish this by building a relationship with them, and this my friend takes time.  You can’t skip the steps, and the first step in building a relationship is always listening to the other party.  An effective way in getting to know your employee is to ask him/her about their 5 h’s (history, hopes, heartaches, hero, and honey)? Remember, people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Listening is the utmost act of caring. When you listen in mindfulness and with a nonjudgemental ear, you will be able to foster open and trust-worthy communication.  So the next time you are tempted to “fix it” take a moment to hear your player/employee out first.  Allowing someone to openly express their self displays the ultimate sign of respect.  Not only will this increase productivity but you may even gain a “friend” for life:).